Hampton Beach fireworks canceled in a bid to protect endangered birds

Hampton Beach fireworks canceled in a bid to protect endangered birds

Sunday night’s fireworks display at Hampton Beach in New Hampshire has been canceled to protect Piping Plovers, an endangered bird in New Hampshire, officials said.

Piping plovers nest in the beach area, according to the Hampton Beach Facebook page. Birds are protected by New Hampshire law and it is illegal to harm, harass, injure or kill them.

The piping plover is a small bird with a very short beak, according to the National Audubon Society’s website. The bird’s pale back often matches the white sand beaches and alkaline flats it inhabits.

“Many of its nesting areas are subject to human disturbance or other threats, and it is now considered an endangered or threatened species in all parts of its range,” according to the Audubon Society.

Piping plovers’ nests are roped up on Hampton and Seabrook beaches so people won’t disturb them, the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game said on its website.

The birds, which are also protected by federal law, have been breeding in New Hampshire since about 1997, according to Brendan Clifford, wildlife biologist with NH Fish and Game’s Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program, which oversees conservation efforts for the piping plover. Birds specifically started nesting on beaches while they were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

Clifford said he doesn’t expect them to stop nesting there anytime soon.

“Once they nest in areas and are successful, they return to those areas every year,” Clifford said.

He thinks there will be 16 pairs of plovers in New Hampshire this year, surpassing last year’s record of 13. One of the nests hatched on Saturday and another nest has just been established, he said.

“They’re both within half a mile of the fireworks, where they’re launching them, so it’s too close, and they’ll be disturbed, and they’ll potentially abandon the nest, and that’ll potentially lead to death. eggs. “, said Clifford. “So we recommended that the city not hold [the fireworks] to protect the birds.

Last year’s Memorial Day fireworks were canceled in response to both the pandemic and the birds nesting on the beach, Clifford said. He expects birds to affect Memorial Day fireworks for years to come.

“That’s something we’re going to have to work with the city to come up with some kind of management plan for how to do this, but it will definitely impact the first fireworks,” Clifford said.

He said Massachusetts has a habitat conservation plan: a federal permit that allows birds to be discouraged from nesting in certain areas as long as there is a net benefit to them by improving other areas, or by improving predator awareness or management.

“We could do it in New Hampshire, but it’s a very long and expensive process to get, and it’s very expensive,” Clifford said. “That might be how we go if Hampton really wants their fireworks on Memorial Day, for example, but it’s just big business.”

In the meantime, Clifford said baby plover chicks can’t fly and he warned they don’t stay in roped-off areas either.

“So if you’re going to the beach in New Hampshire, be sure to ‘watch where you step,'” Clifford said.

Adam Sennott can be contacted at [email protected]